Grand jury selection reformed, now focus turns to grand jury proceedings

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard S.B. 1492 that would put an end to grand jury shopping, allow the target of a grand jury investigation to be accompanied by their attorney; require the recording of grand jury proceedings; and require the disclosure of exculpatory evidence.

Senator John Whitmire argued there's a large consensus that grand juries need to be reformed with documented abuses.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said prosecutors are put in a vice grip with the 90 day statute to produce evidence that might not be available.

"I'm frightened about being able to gather all the evidence in a significantly effective way to convince a grand jury to indict somebody," said Ogg.

Another concern was that a lawyer present would cause intimidation to a citizen grand jury without a judge to arbitrate.

"I think it's possibly that a grand jury could want more evidence than we've got in the first 90 days, that that could then trigger a delay," said Ogg.

She said she’s concerned about the operational difficulties, as well as the cost factor for both small and large jurisdictions.

SB 1492 is similar to HB 2398 by S. Thompson (D-Houston) in that it puts counsel in the grand jury room during questioning, imposes delays to allow witnesses to hire and consult with counsel, requires recording of all proceedings, requires presentation of exculpatory evidence, and limits re-presentments. Unlike the House bill, though, the Senate bill does not include pre-presentment discovery to the witness or allow prosecutors to be sued.

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